Wired for movement

Walking is an evergreen exercise. From the time we as human beings learn to use our two limbs to walk on this beautiful earth, we are ushered into the infinite possibilities of movement. The ability to walk helps us to seek and discover. It helps us to face and experience the elements in their finest form. As we walk and take our body alongside with us on a stroll we get our entire body accompanying ourselves in a sojourn to new and exciting realms.

Ever since I ready the biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, where in he mentions how Steve held official meetings walking barefoot near his office with other guests, I tried to picturize how one of the most remarkable men of the 20th century was able to accentuate his passion to building great things just because he walked. Walking is a tremendous and fascinating exercise of the soul. It helps us feel the earth and align ourselves with the rhythms of the universe.

I have always believed that we are nothing but cosmic dust. Our bodies have forever been considered as vessels for our souls. When we die, our bodies are either cremated or buried. In both cases the physical body returns to earth and the soul leaves the body. By walking we move our body and our ‘being’ (read soul) along with in — aligning itself with the universe. When we are one with the universe- that is when magic flows and happens.

In the book Alchemist by Paulo Coelho there is this famous quote — If you really want something, the whole universe conspires to get it for you. If we are nothing but cosmic dust and if the universe consists of this cosmic dust, think about this — should not we too be having the universe within us? Are we the universe? The entire universe is believed to be expanding at any given point of time. The second law of thermodynamics asserts this entropy. Life is never constant — even if you think it is not taking you anywhere, it is actually in motion. Never ending motion. If you consider the analogous nature of everything we know so far from life and the universe, we are in motion whether we realise it or not.

Now think for a moment- by walking and feeling us walking we may be experiencing that motion, that entropy which has defined the universe for ever.

Keep moving — experience the motion by looking forward and walking. You may not need an aim, because it is finite. You may need motion because it helps you experience the infinite.

In understanding the infinite and moving accordingly we get to feel and understand what the universe is- why we were created in the first place and why there may never be any species like us anymore.

We are unique because we are made for movement.

Fighting and Winning

‘The Last Jedi’ was a Star Wars movie that ended up polarizing its fan base when it took lots of risks with its unique storytelling and choices that was different for one of the most lucrative movie franchises of all time. In the movie, the story progresses immediately after the end of its predecessor ‘The Force Awakens’ with the presumed protagonist Resistance fighting for its last strands of survival. They were being chased to oblivion by the antagonist The First Order, who were remnants of the vanquished Empire from the Original Trilogy. Upon discovery of a tracking device within the Resistance ship, the movie portrays the attempts by the Resistance to thwart the First Order from totally destroying them. Parallel to the movie’s narrative is the training of Rey, a nobody with the Force trained by one of the veterans of the original series Luke Skywalker. The Resistance believed that Luke will be instrumental to them winning the war with the ‘evil’ First Order and hence was counting on him to help them just as he saved the day in the first movie of the original trilogy. However, Luke beaten by his demons (from a failed assassination bid on his nephew once he found that the latter was moving away from his teaching to the evil side) chose to sacrifice himself by projecting himself across the galaxy to distract his nephew as the Resistance fled to its safety. This portrayal of heroism was unusual to the Star Wars fan base who reminisced how Luke took down the Death Star in the original trilogy and were astounded by the former’s meekness this time around. As a result, the hugely successful movie polarized the fan base so bitterly to this day.

The portrayal of heroism in this movie was duly summed up by one of the supporting characters within the movie, who goes by the name Rose where she mentions:

“That’s how we’re going to win. Not fighting what we hate, but saving what we love,”

We have always been taught that any war is fought with a clear black and white narrative — good vs evil. There is a clear definition of who the good guys and the bad guys are. One is supposed to hate everything about the bad guys; and like or adore everything about the good guys. This simple mode of definition — works very well. However, we all know how life is different. One look at world history and we get our answer. During the cold war, USA was portrayed a benevolent superpower whereas the Soviet Union was the evil empire and gained notoriety in art and culture. Yet if one considers the events from the fall of the Berlin Wall till date, the lovable superpower doesn’t look like what it was made out to be. Similarly, the traditional model of warfare between good and evil doesn’t work anymore. If one glances through the social media, the world is clearly polarized than ever before. Take any field and it is difficult to obtain consensus. The entire world economy is crawling because people simply cannot make up their mind on anything like they used to. There is a constant sense of attrition and diatribe. In this context any win would seem not worth it. Maybe if we did save what we believed in, by sacrificing our hatred, the outcome may be different.

The more of everything, the less of anything

Go big or go home’ is the battle cry of capitalism. ‘You need to grow faster or you are toast’ another famous cry to make hay while the sun shines.

There is a Biblical story of Joseph who could interpret dreams and was a prisoner in the Pharaoh prisons. When the Pharaoh saw a dream of seven fat cows being eaten by seven thin cows, no one in the kingdom could decipher his dreams. Upon the recommendation of his butler who was imprisoned for a crime and later exonerated, Joseph foretold a period of fourteen years — seven years of prosperity followed by seven years of famine. He recommended steps to be done during the periods of prosperity so that Egypt could weather the periods of famine. It was a revolutionary idea for the empire building Egyptians who were known for the pyramid tombs and massive expenditures as a result. Since they did not know how to go about this, Pharaoh appointed Joseph as his Man Friday. Joseph went about an ambitious program of building huge storehouses to store the produce during the prosperous periods. When the time for famine arrived, it was recorded that not just Egypt but the entire world made its way to purchase food to feed themselves. The windfall that Joseph made for the Egyptians was spectacular. Little did he know that the entire wealth was later used after his lifetime by the same Egyptians to enslave his descendants, the Hebrews (precursor to modern Jews) into building massive monuments — some of which are even standing today.

A decade ago to be precise, was when I first heard of Netflix. At that time there was a store called Blockbuster from where you could rent movies. The shop had priced rentals of movies that you could rent and watch in the comfort of your own homes. Netflix came up with a revolutionary mail-in based DVD subscription program that was successful. However, few years later, they decided to completely move into an internet based streaming service by charging a minimum monthly fee-based subscription model. This upended the industry totally that people stopped at one time going to theatres and embarked on a cable TV cord cutting mission. The conventional media industry that relied on a movie theatre, cable, DVD model was taken aback by surprise. Here you have an internet company come up with a new model of content distribution that was remarkable and disruptive. Aided by Amazon’s servers, the entertainment now streamed 24 x 7 from the internet cloud — changing the way how one viewed entertainment forever.

Fast forward to 2019, and we see a plethora of competitors vying for the same eyeballs with massive volumes of content out there for people to feast upon. The average viewer has never had it too good. Or did they? If you look at the story of Joseph, the massive breakthrough he brought on the Egyptians by a mere deciphering of a dream was used by the former in enslaving generations of his own descendants. The new entertainment model that was envisaged by Netflix has resulted is a massive outbreak of content where the viewer can watch content on every imaginable genre available, but cannot end up liking anything. As the tech giant Netflix tries to grow themselves by piling huge volumes of debt, one can only wait and see how it all ends for the company as ambitious media-based competitors pull their content away from the platform to build their own. It is a race to the finish with diminishing returns and eyeballs for sure as viewers get tired and fatigued of meaningless content and finally resort to watching the few quality ones. With more of everything, it truly becomes the less of anything — and in the end counter intuitive.

What to do next?

Everyone seems to be angry these days and no one knows why. In the age of memes and online trolls, people are agitated, unhappy and spiteful. Despite living in one of the most prosperous times of human existence for a good majority of the world’s population; instead of being happy, spiritual and graceful, the converse has happened. Try watching the news or follow the trends on social media or watch movies, one can find that there is anger and angst everywhere. How did we get here?

How does man’s progress reach a point of sad regress? Instead of being happy with the best of technology and convenience at one’s fingertips, people have become a sorry state of themselves. If one traverses the online world, you can find unhappiness, regret and bitterness all throughout. Be it in the political space, civic space, spiritual space, religious space- there is a general and accentuated degradation of values. Why has this anomaly happened?

I think, because we do not know what to do next.

If you look at human history, the periods of progress have always been in the pursuit of something i.e., it centred around conquests of countries. Successful conquests brought long period of wealth and prosperity to the victors (mostly plundered) in addition to periods of growth and expansions from the cheap labour that the former permitted. These periods of growth were always at the expense of other human lives and livelihood. Yet their role in progress cannot be denied.

In today’s world, despite having the most cutting edge and technology enhance armour, physical wars are long, drawn out and never ending. This is because it is not easy like ancient times to subdue an entire country like the Romans did to the Jews at the beginning of the century (read Masada). The reasons why this is the case is due to the impressive strides made in human consciousness that looks down and abhors brutality and cruelty.

So what do we do next? We need to shift our focus into a higher realm of development. We need to leave the earth and invest to explore the space. The cost of destroying and permanently damaging our earth in our quest for development is simply not worth it for humans and our future generations. We cannot allow our pettiness and dastardliness to one another define who we are or what we are.

Space is definitely the final frontier for humans and it is only a matter of time before we embark on this quest. I have read somewhere, humans were created to travel, to move and explore and not to be static as it has been facilitated today by technology. We are not designed for the lives we are living today and that is the singular reason why we are angry or there is anger everywhere today. It is because, this is not what defines us as humans.

What defines us as humans is to aim higher and seek newer destinations to live a better and meaningful life.

Time Travel

Time travel has been a pet fascination of mine since time immemorial. Ever since I had a chance to read the Time Machine by H.G.Wells, I have been fixated on the practicality of time travel. Although theoretically it may be possible, it is highly unlikely that one gets to actually travel back in time based on the current plane of reference — our existence on this earth. However it may be a possibility with interplanetary or interstellar travel.

There are two things that are true in one’s lifetime — the passage of time and death. The concept of time is baffling- you can measure time but you cannot go backward or forward in time. This makes it a special entity that one faces throughout his life on this earth. The question remains on what to do with all the time we have on this earth?

I do not think that our influence on time is the entire part of the story but it could be the other way around. Time influences us and develops us to what we are as humans. Time is the factor that makes our destinies dance to the whims and fancies of its choosing. I cannot claim that what I do today or did yesterday can completely influence what may happen to me tomorrow. Because time does not behave like that. It may offer clues but never allows your deeds to always influence the outcome.

I have learnt and understood in this short life that good people always get whacked by fate where as the evil people (if you allow such a distinction) gets a free pass most of the time. It may be easy for us to relate this happening to the power of doing evil lasts more than the power of doing good. However this distinction is wrong. In most cases it is ‘time’ that plays its narrative and not fate.

If you look at the tales of dictators around the world. They all had a long period of prosperity where they were able to impose their evil will on people and get away with it. The victims of their deeds in most cases used to be the poor, unfortunate people. Then one day you hear that the same dictators perish in the most unlikeliest of circumstances. It is their time that has come to an end.

I have learnt a simple lesson in life. Good times are like being on the top of a mountain and bad times are like being in the valley. The only way to survive or sustain is to prevent oneself from falling in the case of the former and to prevent digging further in the case of the latter. It is important in those times to withdraw to a shell and maintain the status quo.

Just like the cycle of life, there is also a cycle of time. We commonly hear the words, ‘history repeats’. Time follows the rules of the universe — it repeats, allows many chances. However when one understand this truth, you do not need to travel back or forth in time — you need to travel with time.

Happy New Year

January 1, 2019. A new year.

Another cycle of 12 months has just passed us, and a new year has arrived at our doorstep. As human beings we get charged up every time there is something new in front of us. Having something new is exciting as there is lots of potential to make a true difference. It brings in hope and a new-found optimism. The energy and the power that comes henceforth is raw and needs proper channelling before it ends, and January 2, 2019 starts to feel just like December 31, 2018.

How do we prevent something like that from happening and allow the benefits of the ‘new-found optimism’ to prolong over the next 12 months or even greater? This question has always dazed people especially when resolutions that one set forward in the new year collapse within hours, days or even months after they come into effect.

I believe that ‘intention’ is the first step in a process to ensure that resolutions live or last longer. Resolutions are seeds of newness one finds in the new year. To cultivate or grow them takes some hard work, yet it is not impossible.

I am a strong believer in the principles outlined by Charles Duhigg in his path breaking book ‘The Power of Habit’. In the book, Charles explains the habit loop that has three stages: the cue or the trigger that causes the habit, the routine which is the behaviour and the reward. The thing with most resolutions is that we are good in defining the ‘What (trigger)’ and sometimes the ‘Why (reward)’. Most of the time we fail to define the ‘How (routine)’ which causes the resolutions to fail. For example, just by taking a gym membership doesn’t mean that you lose body fat or weight. At the same time if you work 15+hrs a day and are tired by the time you reach home, you will have only yourself to blame if you cannot find the time to burn the fat, because there is a disconnect between what you want and what you have.

So how then one gets around and use the power of habit in meeting resolutions? That’s where the power of intention comes into play. Intention is the foundation stone of behaviours. Behaviours are key to the success of any habits. It is important to define and agree upon the routine prior to embarking on any habit — or resolution. So how do you define the routine?

Stephen Covey’s habit (2) states that ‘Begin with the end in mind’. If you clearly define the end (reward) by being specific about it, you begin the journey to a successful resolution. For e.g., ‘I want to be 90kgs by the end of December 2019’ by ‘____ (?)’. This is where one needs to define a meaningful routine. For example:

– By going to gym by myself and then get bored and drop off in a week OR

– By employing the services of a fitness trainer and work with him in meeting my objectives?

By having clarity on the routine i.e., challenging it so that it is robust and do not fail, there is a better potential to succeed.

To summarise, resolutions work well when developed as a habit. Any habit needs a strong definition (‘What’), reason (‘Why’) and behaviour (‘How’) to succeed. Start with the ‘why’, define the ‘how’ and see how the ‘what’ starts to make sense.

Happy New Year.

The image problem

We worry about our image all the time. How did we reach here? It may not be a bad thing.

We live in an image conscious world. Thanks to social media, everyone (including yours’ truly is on a quest to show themselves as cool, outgoing and an amazing person to be with. We love to click selfies, show ourselves as always happy, fun loving and having a blast at all times. This to me is one of the blessings of the modern era. No one will know the inner you. The filter that you put on can help conceal what you are really within yourself.

I consider myself fortunate to have spent valuable times with my grandparents in my youth. They came from a generation that preceded the baby boomers. These people witnessed the world wars, the cold wars and every conflict that has come to define the 20th century. They have been through hunger, famine, struggle-everything you name it. These experiences shaped them to rough and tough people who called a spade a spade and walked the talk and talked the talk. Economic prosperity was however denied to them during their time on the earth. Fate did compensate them later with a change in the circumstances of their own children/ grand children.

I’ve had many colourful conversations with my own grandparents about life then versus now. Due to extreme hardships they faced, they valued people and money dearly. They would ensure that relations were maintained and money was spent wisely or not even spent all. They valued things and they abhorred waste.

For a moment consider the 21st century. We thrive in the era of commercialization. We thrive in an era of buying and spending beyond our means. For us economic prosperity was attainable due to the relative peaceful conditions that we live in. We love our gadgets and our instagrammed portraits of ourselves. There is nothing wrong in loving oneself and some may argue it is wise to mind one’s own business in a world such as today.

We live in different times. The human race of my grandfathers evolved into the one of mine that we see today. People would like to lament how good things were back then- but today is even better. It may be crowded and noisy today. But one can find true peace and harmony within oneself. Being image conscious may not be a bad thing after all. It is always better to be the best of what you can be each day.

I have learnt a simple lesson in life which I admit I learnt from my own grandparents. It was years ago and I still remember when my grandmother passed away and her body was moved from the home to the cemetery. My grandfather said he did not want to come and chose to stay home alone. As everyone made their way out, I went and had a look at my grandfather. He was really close to his wife of many years. She completed him and was there with him through thick and thin. He might have dreaded that day when they had to bade goodbye – and today it was here. There was sadness and a sense of fear in his face. Life is never going to be the same again. The realization that in the end, you are all alone by yourself- and your time could be next.

I think it is important to understand that your life is all about you and not anyone else. But I will never say that your world is all about you. The world has never owed anything to anyone and will continue despite you. It is wise to give importance to yourself rather than have a feeling of self importance or entitlement. You will be disappointed if you believe that latter is the case. The old adage holds a self evident truth – ‘Live and let live’. Always remember the first word – ‘Live’.